Alan Hayes shares his thoughts on three core issues that will help our supply chain teams and functions be better prepared for change. This follows on neatly from last week’s blog, in which James Walton explored whether Brexit and other forces of change could be the prompt for some fundamental rethinking of our supply chains.
Forces of change
Competition, technology, shopper preferences, economic and political and societal shifts, conflict – these and many more are the forces which drive unprecedented pace and scale of change within the context of how and where our businesses operate. Some commentators argue that the pace of change is accelerating. Undoubtedly, the direction of change is also more unpredictable than ever.
These forces are reshaping the food and grocery industry, and we face challenges which are similar to those in every other major industry. Technology and social media companies have become the new gateway to consumers, and suppliers across the entire supply chain need to change dramatically to stay relevant to shoppers.
Within supply chains, we are faced with continued conflicting demands:
- How can we specialise in omnichannel and individual channels?
- How do we increase availability and reduce costs?
- How to we become more flexible and more efficient?
- How do we anticipate shopper demands and improve accuracy?
- How do we synchronise entire end to end supply chains while optimising each node?
- How do we plan with confidence for a world of such uncertainty?
These conflicting demands, just like the crises from which they emerge, were largely not anticipated by our leadership teams when our organisations were designed and our supply chain networks laid down.
Being better prepared
It is easy to acknowledge the unprecedented change and complexity around us. It is also easy to recognise the ways in which disruption should be fundamentally changing the way supply chains work. However, many organisations are struggling to develop coherent plans quickly enough. Agility, transformation, zero based budgeting, synchronisation – just some of the many approaches which are being tried to deliver change which is vital.
Change is a scary proposition in so many organisations, where standardisation of processes and systems and structures are the norm. By definition, change requires creating a new system in which we do things differently and we do different things. Change is also usually messy and full of surprises, even when it has been deemed successful. Our markets and shoppers and opportunities may have moved on while we have been busy making changes.
If we want to be better prepared for change within our supply chain teams and functions, we ought to consider the following three core issues:
The focus of management activities is dealing with daily business, not discussing new strategies and dynamic change programmes. Therefore, we need a separation between “doing the day job” and “delivering the change programme”. Not man
Change programmes within our functions will involve people as much as processes, and all of them will have a different perspective. Involving them in the programme, using their feedback to help with short term course correction – these are vital aspects of minimising the messiness and surprises which can emerge.
Finally, “pockets of good practice” and “bottom up” are often more effective ways of implementing change than “top down”. Embrace these.
It starts with us
There are three core issues which we ought to consider for ourselves as leaders:
- How “change ready” are we as individuals and as leaders within our functions?
- How able are we to mitigate the impact of day-to-day demands which pull us and our people in different directions, and help our people make good trade-offs?
- How willing are we to be an individual “pocket of good practice” which influences colleagues within our Supply Chain function and the broader organisation?
Be the change.
Then we have a much better chance of success.
Sustainability and Strategy Manager
James describes some short and long term forces of change affecting FMCG supply chains, and explores whether Brexit could be the prompt for some fundamental rethinking.
15 October, London
The IGD Supply Chain Summit 2019 focuses on how to be customer centric. We’ll connect you with the retailers, suppliers and solution providers that are winning with customers.
Get the latest industry news and insights straight to your inbox with our range of newsletters.